Patents as Bullets: Google Drawing Dead?

There's nothing quite as boring as a good patent story.  So you may not have noticed Apple and a consortium of others (including Microsoft) won its bid to buy Nortel's portfolio of patents.

It gets a bit more interesting, though, if you think of patents as bullets in the business war. And now Apple has more bullets than Google.  Nortel sold thousands of its patents to satisfy creditors in its bankruptcy.  Patents covering WiFi, wireless and networking - both of the social and the router kind.

The total price was $4.5 billion dollars - far more than Google's first stalking horse bid. Why Google did not bid more agressively is not clear, nor is it clear what Google missed out on. However, most industry watchers expected more agression out of the Mountain View company, which already faces 45 alleged patent violations for its Android OS.

In the company's official blog, Google's Kent Walker said "one of a company’s best defenses against this kind of litigation is (ironically) to have a formidable patent portfolio, as this helps maintain your freedom to develop new products and services."

Companies often buy patent portfolios nearly blind.  Why?  Partly out of the fear it will invent something in the future only to discover it doesn't have the necessary patent to protect its invetion.  Partly as a "revenge weapon":  You sue me for violating one of your patents, and I'll dig through all my patents and find something you're violating of mine and countersue.

Analyst Florian Miller told ComputerWorld Magazine: "Google lost an unprecedented opportunity to acquire a major bargaining chip that would strengthen it at the mobile industry's intellectual property negotiating table."

Contact Us